Today, Feb. 20, is the first day of the 2018 legislative session in St. Paul and Teamsters Local 320 is monitoring important legislation for Minnesota’s public employees.
We are keeping tabs on next week’s February Economic Forecast on Wednesday the 28 – we are hoping for a positive outcome with state money to spend on our schools, higher education, and pensions. After the budget forecast, we can anticipate supplemental budget recommendations from Governor Dayton.
If the budget forecast is bleak, we can then expect very minor adjustments in spending for our priorities and little to no movement on supplemental budget recommendations. However, we have heard that a projected surplus in the short-term is possible even though last November’s economic forecast estimated a long-term structural deficit.
The biggest item on our agenda is public employee pensions and protecting the Defined Benefit Pension or traditional pension plan. We know that the MSRS, PERA, and TRA boards of trustees are working diligently to address the underfunding issues with some of the plans. There are proposed solutions to fix plans that are underfunded without moving away from a traditional pension. Unfortunately, there are also some legislators who want to use any funding issue with the plans to move towards a 401k-type retirement plan for new hires in the public sector.
We are also determined to address the issues with McKenna’s Law and the unintended strain it has caused our court system and assistant public defenders.
We are working to ensure first responders receive post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) presumption under the Minnesota’s Work Comp laws and heart attack coverage for county correctional officers. Currently the law provides for heart attack coverage for state correctional officers only. We hope that this item will be perceived as a straightforward and necessary fix.
Lastly, we are monitoring the state contracts for AFSCME and MAPE that were rejected by the Joint Committee on State Employee Relations or JSER. Teamsters Local 320 has a contract for its MSUAASF bargaining unit that must also move through the JSER committee. The attacks on state contracts are harming thousands of state employees here in Minnesota. We are working with both political parties to get these contracts passed and we will continue to fight for the rights of all Minnesota workers!